Nothing like a cold, rainy day to make me want to turn on the oven and whip up a massive tray of stuffed vegetables of all shapes and sizes. It takes about an hour to bake, and you’ll find me here, huddled next to the oven door the entire time.
You can stuff way more than just peppers — I started with six peppers, then moved on to two zucchini and four tomatoes. You could give onions the same treatment; I just wasn’t in the mood. Baking all these vegetables together in the pan adds flavor to the entire dish, though.
There they are, hot out of the oven and overflowing with rice:
For about a dozen stuffed vegetables of various shapes and sizes:
(This fills one 9-by-13 inch baking dish, or something of similar volume)
For the stuffing:
6-8 garlic cloves
big handful parsley
big handful dill
1 1/2 cup rice
1/2 t cumin
1/2 t turmeric
1/2 t pepper
2 t paprika
1 t salt
oil for frying
Vegetables to stuff:
6 smallish peppers
(Give or take. You can stuff any combination of vegetables you want, even cabbage leaves.)
To throw in the pan:
the insides left over from hollowing out the zucchinis and tomatoes
a few extra tomatoes
First off: Preheat the oven to its highest setting (mine goes to 260 degrees Celsius).
To make the stuffing:
Thinly chop the onions, and fry in a pot until they become transparent. Add the garlic, crushed, and fry some more until it browns. Add the tomatoes, chopped, and cook a bit more until they get mushy (you can help them out by smashing them). Turn off the flame, and add the rice, spices and chopped herbs. Mix.
To prepare the vegetables to be stuffed:
- To prepare the peppers, just slice off the tops. Save the caps; pull out the seeds inside and toss them.
- To hollow out the tomatoes, slice off the top, and pull out the lump of seeds and flesh inside, leaving only the walls (the tomato seeds go into the baking dish).
- To hollow out the zucchini, slice them in half — NOT lengthwise — so that they’re a manageable length (unless your zucchini are very small to begin with). Then, with a small paring knife, begin slicing cones into the cut ends. First you remove a small cone, then you go a bit deeper, and eventually you can twist the knife around the inside of the zucchini to remove the flesh all the way at the end and to insure you have enough space to fill. You don’t have to remove the stem, but save the insides to throw into the pan.
To stuff and bake the vegetables:
Spoon the stuffing into the hollowed vegetables. You don’t want to pack it, since the rice will expand, but you can fill it pretty much to the top — it’ll just pour out a bit when it’s cooked. Arrange the vegetables in the baking dish — the peppers can be on their sides, and the caps can be next to them, not necessarily on them; place the tops back on the tomatoes, though, since they’re softer. Pour hot water into the dish, so that it covers about 2/3 of the vegetables. It’s important that the water be touching the rice in each vegetable, because otherwise the rice won’t cook. Scatter some cut tomatoes and salt on top, and drizzle with olive oil if you’d like. You can also toss any excess filling straight into the pan.
Put into the oven, which should be at the maximum temperature (believe me, the vegetables can take the heat). About 20-30 minutes into the cooking process, once the water in the pan begins to boil (hopefully), flip any of the vegetables that aren’t fully submerged, to make sure the rice can cook evenly.
The dish is done after about an hour in the oven, once the rice is fully cooked; the vegetables should be well-baked by this point. Obviously, it generally takes less than an hour to cook rice, but because of the volume of food, it takes it a while to get hot enough for the rice to start cooking.